An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Tidy up with the South Venice Community Cleanup

It's time to clean out the garage and gather discarded household items, appliances, junk, tree trimmings an other garbage as Sarasota County will hold a free community cleanup in the south Venice area from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 21.

Dumpsters will be available for your convenience at the following locations:

  • South Venice Community Center, 720 Alligator Drive.
  • South Venice Ferry Landing, 2000 block of Lemon Bay Drive.
  • Seaboard Drive, near Orange Street.

  • Hazardous materials, paint, auto parts, computers, electronics and televisions will not be accepted at any location. Appliances and tires will only be accepted at the South Venice Community Center location. Hazardous waste, including unwanted paint, may be taken to the Sarasota County Chemical Collection Center 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. The chemical collection center is located at 8750 Bee Ridge Road.

    For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

    Blue-green algae defeated the field at prestigious triathlon

    The 30-acre man-made island known as Nathan Benderson Park was created by developers close to the border of Manatee and Sarasota counties specifically to showcase the area to the entire world.

    Designed for special events, like world-class rowing canoeing and triathlons, not to mention local use by avid bicyclists, runners, joggers and walkers, the park’s reputation has been soaring the past three years, culminating with a well-received World Rowing Championship two weeks ago.

    But the park received a bit of a disappointment last week when its lake was ruled off limits to swimmers due to a blue-green algae bloom during the first ever Sarasota-Bradenton International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Cup, which featured athletes from roughly 16 countries.

    What will Florida (and its water supply) look like in 2070?

    The Florida of 2070 is at a crossroads today.

    That’s the conclusion of two reports released late last year by 1000 Friends of Florida, the University of Florida’s GeoPlan Center and the state’s Department of Agriculture. With the state’s population expected to swell to 33.7 million by 2070, almost 15 million more than identified in the 2010 Census, researchers teamed up to look at growth trends and sprawl.

    One report, Florida 2070, says if development continues on its current path, more than a third of the state will be paved over by 2070. That means millions of acres of agricultural and natural lands will be lost, to say nothing of the jobs, natural resources and quality-of-life indicators tied to them.

    Another report, Water 2070, says almost 15 million new Floridians will overburden an already fragile water supply, with water use projected to more than double by 2070.

    Lake O hits highest level since 2005, raising concerns its dike could fail

    Rainfall from Hurricane Irma has pushed the water level in Lake Okeechobee to its highest point since 2005. Now, with more wet weather in the forecast, nearby residents fear a collapse of the 80-year-old dike around the lake.

    As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dumping large volumes of lake water out into coastal estuaries — exactly as it did last year, when those releases caused a massive toxic algae bloom that closed Atlantic coast beaches over the Fourth of July weekend.

    Meanwhile, Corps officials have stepped up inspections of the dike to three to four times a week to make sure its continuing leaks don't grow to the point of endangering people living near it.

    "We recognize that as the water level continues to rise, there is an increased risk of failure," Corps spokesman John Campbell said.

    The dike around the lake is classified as one of the most vulnerable in the nation. The earthen embankment on the south end of the lake is older, and thus more in danger of being breached, he said.

    That puts the communities south of the lake — Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay and Clewiston among them — at the greater risk for both property damage and loss of life.

    Is development draining Florida’s aquifer system beyond repair?

    "Water flow is the lifeblood of the springs, so when you reduce their flow, they start getting sick." —Robert Knight, Florida Springs Institute

    The economic benefits of development and the preservation of natural resources are continually being weighed against each other. In a state like Florida, this conversation is often a protracted — even heated — one because so much of the state’s tourism industry is reliant on keeping its beaches, parks and springs as pristine as possible. The boon delivered by tourism also justifies questions about how new construction and expanding agricultural operations could put a dent in one of the state’s biggest revenue streams.

    More than 112 million tourists visited Florida last year, a 5.9% increase from 2015, Florida Today reported. Those visitors spent $109 billion and generated 1.4 million jobs.

    And some visitors are staying.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced last month that the state had seen the number of private businesses increase by 16.5% since December 2010. While many of the net 75,449 businesses added since then are homegrown, the figure also includes those coming from out of state to set up shop. The growth in the number of businesses in the state is one contributor to its strong population growth currently.

    That’s good news and bad news for the state. The good news is that all those new people will need places to live, shop, work, learn, relax and seek medical care, which means a boost for the state's construction industry and its workers. Local and state agencies also get to collect more property, sales and other taxes as a result.

    The bad news is that the strain on the state’s aquifer system — the subterranean limestone reservoirs that provide most of the water that Floridians use to drink, bathe and water their lawns — is starting to become evident.

    Funds to battle Red Tide may be on the way

    In 2016, there was an outbreak of red tide in Sarasota and Manatee counties. It caused thousands of dead fish to wash ashore on beaches in those counties, harming the Suncoast environment and economy. At that time U.S. Congressman Vern Buchanan said Congress should help address the red tide outbreak with additional funding. This September the Congressman was successful in his quest.

    Congressman Buchanan’s legislation dedicating $8 million to combat red tide passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The proposal was included in a government funding bill that now goes to the Senate for consideration. It was included in the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, which funds the federal government for fiscal year 2018.

    “Southwest Florida is a beautiful, vibrant place to live and we need to address any threat to our pristine environment and way of life,” Buchanan said. “We need to understand more about the toxins in red tide so we can stop their damaging effects.”

    The red tide amendment increases funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by $8 million to provide additional resources to reduce the threat of red tide.

    Harmful algae blooms cause $82 million in economic losses to the seafood, restaurant and tourism industries each year in the United States, according to NOAA.

    Human consumption of shellfish contaminated from red tide areas can cause severe illness. Most people can swim in red tide, but it can cause skin irritation and burning eyes. Symptoms from breathing red tide toxins usually include coughing, sneezing, and teary eyes. People with chronic respiratory problems like asthma and COPD should avoid red tide areas.

    In addition, the federal government has announced that it is funding a research project in seven states to try to better understand harmful algal blooms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is providing nearly $1.7 million for research projects about the blooms in Alaska, California, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Ohio and Virginia.

    Riverview High School-Mote aquaculture partnership recognized by FDACS

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    Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently recognized the success of Riverview High School’s program Stars to Starfish, which features eco-friendly aquaculture (fish farming) technology made possible through a multi-year partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory scientists.

    Teaching the next generation about aquaculture is critical. The U.S., imports 91 percent of its seafood, leading to a $10 billion trade deficit. At the same time, saltwater fishing in Florida generates an estimated $6.1 billion in revenues annually. Mote Aquaculture Research Park in eastern Sarasota County is addressing new ways to clean and re-use both fresh and salt-water in closed-loop, or recirculating, systems, to grow fish, sea vegetables and plants for wetlands restoration in ways that sustainably utilize natural resources –– especially water.

    Mote scientists are excited to share their knowledge with the next generation at Riverview High School.

    Riverview’s Stars to Starfish program provides field trips for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. High school students in their second year of marine science courses teach over 4,000 elementary and middle school students from their Sarasota school district annually. Field trip participants begin each tour at Riverview’s planetarium, where visitors watch a 20-minute, Riverview-created planetarium show titled “Stars to Starfish." Next, student interns accompany each group to the “Aquadome," Riverview High School’s 32-by-72-foot aquaculture facility. Here students are led through a wide variety of exhibits, including a visiting snook and shark tank, a touch tank with saltwater invertebrates, a clownfish reproduction system, a coral propagation tank and a productive aquaponics system. Each exhibit emphasizes environmental sustainability while also covering content pertinent to Next Generation Science Standards. The field trip is an enriching experience for both guests and student tour guides, who passionately discuss their projects and promote aquaculture and marine conservation to younger students.

    Continued on Mote Marine Lab’s website »

    Year-round water restrictions now in effect

    All 16 counties throughout the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s boundaries are now on year-round water conservation measures, with lawn watering limited to twice-per-week unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours. Local governments maintaining once-per-week watering by local ordinance include Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties.

    Under the District’s year-round measures, even addresses may water on Thursday and/or Sunday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. and odd addresses may water on Wednesday and/or Saturday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

    Additional details regarding the watering of new lawns and plants, reclaimed water and other water uses can be found at To learn more about how you can conserve water, please visit